As a round of new contestants prepare to battle it out in series 12, what’s happened to the previous victors?
Series 12 of The Apprentice is about to get underway, with to a new line-up of aspiring entrepreneurs desperate to win the approval of Lord Sugar and avoid hearing the fatal words: “You’re fired.”
This year’s contestants include proprietors of everything from beauty salons to cake companies, but viewers will have to wait until Thursday 6 October to find out who will be the ones to watch.
Previous series of the show have certainly produced their fair share of memorable characters – so memorable, in fact, that Sugar has suggested the BBC makes a spin-off show following their lives.
“They’re doing very well and they don’t get enough publicity,” he said, adding that a spin-off could inspire more young people to become entrepreneurs.
So what happened to previous winners of The Apprentice?
Joseph Valente – series eleven (2015)
After narrowly edging out co-finalist Vana Koutsomitis to win, Valente used Sugar’s £250,000 investment to expand his gas and heating business, ImpraGas. He told This is Money the funds enabled him to take on more staff, update technology and open four more offices around the UK.
Mark Wright – series ten (2014)
A year on from his victory, it’s all going well for the 2014 winner, sales manager Mark Wright. He used his investment money to start Climb Online, which uses digital marketing to help small businesses grow. In an interview with The Guardian, Wright boasted that the company was expecting a £1.5m turnover after just nine months in business.
Leah Totton – series nine (2013)
Glamorous Irish doctor Leah Totten crushed the competition in 2013 and used Sugar’s investment to open a successful cosmetic clinic offering bespoke facials, Botox and wrinkle reduction. She remains on good terms with Sugar, who has visited the clinic several times – although, she told the Daily Express, never for a treatment.
Ricky Martin – series eight (2012)
Wrestler-turned-recruitment-entrepreneur Ricky Martin won Sugar’s support with his idea for a specialist recruitment company for jobs in science and technology. He continues to run the company, Hyper Recruitment Solutions, as well as speaking at schools and conferences about careers in science.
Tom Pellereau – series seven (2011)
The Apprentice changed its format slightly in series seven, with contestants competing for a £250,000 investment from Sugar. Inventor Tom Pellereau hit on a winner with his idea for a curved nail file, now stocked by major supermarkets, and continues to come up with new ideas.
Stella English – series six (2010)
Stella English beat off the competition – including the highly quotable Stuart Baggs, who died from an asthma attack this summer – in series six, only to have it all go south in dramatic style. Investment banker English made headlines when she claimed the coveted Amstrad role was a “glorified PA” and later tried to sue Sugar for constructive dismissal. After she lost her case, Sugar sued her to recover his costs – but his case was not successful either. English now works for crowdfunding TV channel Crowd Box.
Yasmina Siadatan – series five (2009)
Siadatan squeaked into first place in a very tight final round, going on to work for Amstrad’s medical supply division. After her year-long contract came to an end, she took time off to have two children, before being headhunted by Dragon’s Den judge James Caan to work for his private equity firm, Hamilton Bradshaw.
Lee McQueen – series four (2008)
Milkman’s son Lee McQueen was caught fibbing on his CV about the time he’d spent at university – but still went on to win series four. He had an inauspicious start at Amstrad, calling in sick on his first day, but ended up staying at the company until 2010, when he left to start his own sales training company, Raw Talent Academy.
Simon Ambrose – series three (2007)
Former Westminster schoolboy Simon Ambrose romped home to victory in series three of the show, and was assigned to Sugar’s property division, Amsprop, where he worked until 2010. These days, he operates a string of bars and restaurants in London, as well as being chairman of the London Contemporary Orchestra.
Michelle Dewberry – series two (2006)
Yorkshire lass Dewberry earned the nickname ‘the Silent Assassin’ for her understated but tough demeanour, which ultimately saw her triumph in the contest’s second series. After 11 months working under Sugar, she left Amstrad and now works as a self-employed consultant, as well as making regular TV appearances as a pundit on Sky News.
Tim Campbell – series one (2005)
After becoming the very first winner of The Apprentice, the Middlesex University graduate worked for Sugar for two years before leaving Amstrad to found a charity. The Bright Ideas Trust aims to help entrepreneurs aged 16 to 30 fulfil their dreams of starting a business. Campbell became an MBE in 2012.